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Royal Antwerp v Spurs, 29.10.20

5.55pm (UK Time)

Refaelov, 29

Attendance:- 0

Referee:- Maurizio Mariani
Assistants:- Fabiano Preti & Daniele Bindoni
Fourth official:- Federico La Penna
(All officials from Italy)

Antwerp (3-4-1-2):- Butez; De Laet, Gelin, Seck; Miyoshi (sub Buta, 58), Hongla (sub Verstraete, 70), Haroun (Capt.), Juklerod; Gerkens; Refaelov (sub Benavente, 88), Mbokani

Subs not used:- Beiranvand; Boya, Ampomah

Booked:- Seck (foul on Bergwijn), Refaelov (foul on Hojbjerg), Verstraete (foul on Hojbjerg), Mbokani (foul on Reguilon)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Sanchez, Davies, Reguilon; Winks, Lo Celso (sub Hojbjerg, 46); Bale (sub Kane, 58), Dele (sub Lamela, 46), Bergwijn (sub Lucas Moura, 46); Vinicius (sub Son, 46)

Subs not used:- Hart; Doherty, Alderweireld, Cirkin; Clarke, White, Sissoko

No bookings

Another failure for Spurs in Belgium

Football is a funny old game as a Spurs legend used to say. Most teams have bogey teams, but what other team has a bogey country? Okay, we have still only played 6 times competitively in Belgium, but once again we have failed to win there. Before the game all the talk was about the fantastic depth of Jose Mourinho’s squad, and that perhaps this could be a trophy-winning season. Jose made no less than 9 changes tonight. One surprise was that Hugo Lloris started, thus making his 100th European appearance. He’ll wish it hadn’t been this game, not that he made any mistakes. Ben Davies, the other player who did start at Turf Moor on Monday night probably will wish he hadn’t started this game for it was his error that led to Antwerp’s one goal.

Jose Mourinho probably wishes he had made a different team selection. The European rules allow the use of five substitutes and Jose slung on four of his five at half-time, with the fifth – Harry Kane going on after 58 minutes, leaving nothing in reserve. Clearly more balance is required with his team selections rather than such wholesale change. The fact of the matter is that Antwerp, who are top of their league and unbeaten in their last seven games, were the better team. They were the team that showed more energy and determination all over the pitch. They played tight on Tottenham, defended so well that their goalkeeper was hardly bothered all night and thoroughly deserved their win. Had they not missed some excellent opportunities they might have won three or four to nil.

Spurs had more possession over the course of the game, but ultimately that counts for nothing. Jose selected Winks and Lo Celso as his “defensive” midfielders. I use the term loosely because Lo Celso’s inclination was to advance. Winks was getting forward too. That often left too much space between our defence and the midfield, and the Antwerp players used that space well. Dele was given his first start for five weeks, and tried hard, but he just was not getting his final touches right. Carlos Vinicius played a few nice touches but he was rarely offered any delivery. Gareth Bale clearly is still lacking fitness, and is not yet fulfilling the hope placed in him by so many Spurs fans. Perhaps because of the midfield getting forward, Aurier and Reguilon did not seem to get forward too much, particularly in the first half.

Antwerp kicked off and Refaelov had a speculative shot go over within the first minute. Gareth Bale tried the same thing at the other end from 25 yards, but pulled his shot wide. After a foul on Reguilon by the physically tough Seck, and the resulting free kick, dele got into the left side of the area with the ball, but his final attempted pass was not successful. Dele was involved in another piece of play when Vinicius fielded a long ball by Lloris on to Dele, who tried to return the ball, but found his path blocked by a determined red-shirted defence.

Juklerod had already been offering a threat down the left wing and when he took a corner after 12 minutes, Gerkens met the ball at the near post but headed it wide across the goal. Lo Celso had a shot comfortably held by goalkeeper Butez, after being fed the ball by Dele Alli. Harry Winks led an attack with a ball to Bergwijn who returned it to the midfielder, whose shot passed over the goal. There was some nice interplay between Bergwijn and Lo Celso, after which Bergwijn had a shot held by the keeper.

Seck had been previously warned by the referee, who was inclined to let a few challenges go, but was booked for a foul on Bergwijn. Antwerp captain Faris Haroun, now aged 35, has played football in England with Middlesbrough and Blackpool. He got forward down the right flank and crossed where Refaelov was in space but hit his right footed shot over the goal.

Spurs broke forward and Lo Celso passed to Dele in his own half. Dele sent a ball forward and Vinicius raced with it down the right channel all the way to the area. He turned the defender but the ball ran to the goalkeeper.

Antwerp were effectively given their goal after Spurs played backwards from the Antwerp half. Ben Davies hesitated over the ball 40 yards out, and might have been fouled by Mbokani, but the 34-year-old Congolese player raced away with the ball crossing to Refaelov (also 34) who was in space and made no mistake with his right-footed shot.

Bale found Bergwijn with a pass across the area, and Bergwijn won and took the corner, but that went straight into Butez’s hands. Bergwijn had another shot go over the target, having received the ball from Lo Celso. Bale had a run and another pass across the edge of the box, but that attack also fizzled out. Vinicius received a good ball from Sanchez and laid it off for Bale, who tried a shot from 22 yards but again it was off target.

Hugo Lloris stretched to hold a dangerous cross by Miyoshi, who then caused danger to the right of goal near the bye-line after Gerkens’ pass, but Harry Winks blocked the attempt on goal.

I personally wanted at least two half-time substitutions, and wanted one of those to be Hojbjerg to give the midfield some strength and the team more balance. I got my wish, along with three other changes. Spurs showed more energy, but they were being well resisted at the back, and somehow Antwerp too often caused more danger in attack than we managed during the game. Myoshi had the better of Sanchez on the left of the Spurs area and when the midfielder crossed Mbokani had a clear shot on goal but skied his attempt. Lloris soon had to push over a 25 yard shot by Juklerod.

Kane was seen getting ready and came on for Bale with over half an hour to go. Harry Winks had an on-target shot blocked. Lucas Moura headed over after a good ball by Hojbjerg. Lamela passed to Lucas Moura to his right. Lucas fed the ball to Son, but again the defence was strong and no shot came. Lamela just failed to make contact with what was a good cross by Aurier.

A free kick taken by Son from 25 yards simply went straight to the keeper. Juklerod ran onto a ball from just inside his half and had a clear run at goal. Luckily for Spurs he panicked and made a mess of his attempt on goal. Refaelov crossed from the left and Verstraete had a good shot well blocked by Davies. Ritchie de Laet, who has a Premier League Championship medal from his time with Leicester, defended well to prevent Lucas Moura’s shot getting any further than the edge of the area.

There were six minutes of ordinary time left, but local fans were letting off fireworks outside the stadium. Spurs failed to dent the defence in the time remaining. Son passed to Winks, but his shot was blocked. Both Kane and Son had shots blocked only just inside the area. All of the Antwerp defence deserved medals. In added time goalkeeper Butez did have to stretch and punch an Aurier cross clear and Lucas Moura hit a right-footed shot over the bar.

Antwerp secured their win and deserved it, although the goal had been a gift and Lloris was not required to make any save of note. LASK have beaten Ludogorets tonight. Spurs travel to Bulgaria next week, and if they win the games they should, then beat Antwerp at home in December then they would surely top the group. However, despite all the stars at our disposal, on this form that is a big ask. All too clearly, Spurs are still capable of letting us down.

Europa League Group J

               P  W  D  L   F-A   GD   Pts

 1. Antwerp    2  2  0  0   3-1    2    6 
 2. Spurs      2  1  0  1   3-1    2    3
 3. LASK       2  1  0  1   4-6   -2    3 
 3. Ludogorets 2  0  0  2   4-6   -2    0   

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